The latest games can get expensive. New AAA titles typically cost $60 at minimum and prices are continuing to go up with standard DLC packages and in game purchases, raising the true costs for many popular franchises.
But are there quality Xbox One titles for gamers on a budget? The latest turn based tactical strategy game from Double Fine Productions, “Massive Chalice” may be great gaming on a budget, especially if players are looking for a unique challenge rather than just the biggest explosions or an overwhelming plethora of content.
I first reported on the game’s availability as free for the month of June and decide to download it myself as I’m a fan of strategy games, both turned based and real time, and to see if you can really have a good amount of fun on a budget.
The bottom line: While this indie title lacks great depth to its combat mechanics and macro strategy, which gamers may have come to expect from the genre, it does have an interesting take, with the combination of familial bloodlines and permanent death for heroes. You should definitely give this game a try during the month of June if you are looking for any easy to play turned based strategy game which involves an interesting twist on strategy not found in major titles.
With that said, it is an indie game that lacks the bells and whistles, but it does have polish and charm of its own. If it wasn’t free for Xbox Live Gold members, I would only recommend this game to players who thoroughly enjoy trying out innovative strategy games. This game is not for players who are looking for epic sagas with a fine high def polish and endless content to sift through.
In this fantasy genre turn based strategy game, the player is the immortal ruler of a nation that is surrounded on all sides by a mysterious enemy known as the Cadence. The main goal is for the player to ensure the nation’s survival over the span of 300 years. The player accomplishes this by engaging in both tactical combat and ruling a nation to fight off continual attacks.
In tactical combat, the player commands five heroes to battle the Cadence in each skirmish. Combat is turn based on an action point system. So players can either use both of a hero’s action points to greater distances, or only move a little and still be able to attack. Fog of war is heavily involved so the player has to carefully maneuver their five heroes around each zone to hunt the Cadence.
The weapons and classes of heroes are simple, which are limited to melee, ranged and an AOE/melee hybrid. The controls are easy to use. This is partially because there isn’t a whole lot of depth of features to control, but also it is a well-designed layout containing hero’s abilities and stats.
If a hero dies, that character is gone for good thanks to Double Find Productions choice of permanent deaths of characters. This rule of the game is the defining feature of “Massive Chalice” and the greatest source of what makes the game fun and unique.
Because only the player is immortal, and you are commanding a nation over the course of a 300 year long war, the main component of the game’s greater strategy is managing your nation’s houses to produce the next generation of fighters. Unfortunately, there aren’t many choices in how you build your nation. Either build for research, producing new heroes or training heroes.
And the only resource consumed in these activities are heroes as you assign them to sire children or research technology instead of fight.
Gameplay and User Experience
The game’s aesthetics are simple and well designed in a way that is not only pleasing to the eye, but is also as effortless as possible to navigate and control. Double Fine Productions did a great job giving thought for how to display quick information.
What makes the combat experience fun is that while it is turn based, it moves quick. And at that fast pace, one wrong move can easily get a hero killed off, helping add to the excitement of the game.
Like in combat the controls for ruling your nation are simple and the menu is easy to navigate, but it doesn’t seem this is because it is so well thought out. Instead, this is simply because there aren’t a million different things you have to do to manage your empire. While the choices are few and simple, the reverberations of them could last throughout generations in your game, which is the strongest selling point of Massive Chalice, if that is a challenge that interests you.
Yes the game is simple. There aren’t many choices for technology trees. There isn’t a cornucopia of weapons and abilities to match the diversity of your heroes. And when managing your nation there is really only one resource you control to achieve a limited set of outcomes. For fans of fantasy and/or strategy games there is a plethora of other titles that offer a great deal more choices that don't exist in "Massive Chalice".
But the simplicity of this indie game doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. And the game offers a unique challenge which forces you to think differently from how you approached other strategy games.
It may be for a niche audience (fans of strategy games who are looking for a challenge different than what they are familiar with) and replay-ability might be limited by the lack of choices as the leader of a nation. But for a game that is available for free to Xbox Live Gold Members, it provides a quick paced mix of strategy and tactics with a distinctively challenging game environment.
For a turn based strategy game it’s fast, it’s fun, and it has a well thought out unique challenge. But it’s not perfect, is somewhat underwhelming, and it won’t be fun to play for endless iterations. So if your expectations aren't too high and you are looking for some budget friendly turn based strategy fun, you can head over to the Xbox Store to get "Massive Chalice" for free for the month of June with Xbox Live Gold.